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My thoughts on profitable dental practice

By 26 November, 2019Members

I hear it can be difficult to make a decent profit in dentistry these days.  When I talk to the few dental accountants I know, they all tell me that some practices are struggling, that dentists are having problems making their UDA’s and that practice expenses keep rising.

I keep hearing the same from dentists, more and more of the owners I know now selling up.

Then I look back to my own experiences and I find I don’t totally understand why this is (don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why nobody would want to own a practice anymore).  It’s probably because I’m biased in how practices should be run based on how I ran mine before I sold it.

This is what I keep hearing:

  • A lot of dentists spend too much money.  They often have cupboards full of gadgets that they never use.
  • They spend hundreds of pounds on courses and never implement what they learn.
  • They muddle through the patient consultation without having a proper system for communication.
  • Their personal expenses are often ego-driven rather than reality-based.
  • They consistently don’t put enough aside for tax


There’s a reason I was able to retire from chairside dentistry at 45.  I’m not suggesting this, by the way, I’m just saying it’s a better option to be in.  Being in the position to work because you want to, not because you have to has a degree of power behind it.

There was also a certain amount of good fortune to it.  I was able to buy my practice relatively cheap and sell it at the top of the market.  I worked in Chesterfield which meant I had low overheads compared to ridiculous places like London.  I was able to work with a UDA value better than most which meant I could do dentistry without having to worry about the udder games many dentists feel they are forced to play.

But those weren’t the main reason.   My ability to retire, I believe, came from the systematisation of my practice and my ability to keep my living expenses under control.  With regards to the former, I wrote flexible systems for the most common situations that kept arising.  Where possible, this allowed staff to deal with any issues without bothering me.  When people aren’t given guidance, they do their best with the resources they have.

Without systems, even the best staff end up winging it or bothering you when you are trying to find that difficult MB2.  Most practices have policies and procedures, but these invariably don’t cover things in a systematic approach.  And let’s be honest, most of this just ends up in a folder unread and ignored until the CQC come round.

It’s good practice to have a policy for whistleblowing for example.  But do you have a system for how to answer the phone, or to control the patient journey through the practice?  Do you have a system for how to get new referrals from existing patients or for what to do when the compressor breaks down?

Do you want a good example of a system?

Ask yourself what you would do in a medical emergency.  You would follow a step by step approach that determines what the emergency is and how you deal with it.


Wouldn’t it be better if you could just get on to do the dentistry?

And I will give you a tip.  If you want a fully systemised practice (which can even include setting out how dental procedures should be done so patients have consistent care from dentists within a practice) always involve your staff.  They need to be on board with the development and the reasons for the systems.  Otherwise, the systems will be ignored.


Now you could spend several weeks in front of a computer doing this.

Or you could give yourself a head start –


Just a thought


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Stephen Hudson

Author Stephen Hudson

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